A Few Tips For the Paranoid Fly Tyer

I’ve tied literally thousands of flies at this point in my life. Sometimes people and fly shops even want to buy some of them from me, which means that I have found myself having to tie multiple dozens of the same pattern all of which should look pretty much exactly alike. With variations in materials and other more cryptic variables sometimes making two identical flies seem daunting, much less a dozen of them.

If you’re nitpicky and self-critical like me (for your sake I hope you’re not) this can drive you a little crazy when tying a large order of flies. I have learned a few things over the years to help me maintain my sanity though:

  1. Wait at least a few hours to do the final inspection – If you just finished tying a dozen flies for somebody don’t immediately jump into comparing them to one another. Every little tiny, itty-bitty difference will seem glaringly obvious to you and you’ll wonder if you should retie that one with the wing that seems a fraction of a millimeter shorter or just get rid of that one there with the eye that looks like it might be a little lower than the other eye. Step away from your flies and comeback later. If you’re at least a reasonably competent tyer you’ll find that you won’t be able to tell much of a difference from one fly to the next.
  2. Don’t compare your flies to flies in bins at big box stores like Bass Pro or Cabela’s – These flies come from big companies like Umpqua that have fly “factories” in Asia where people get paid good money (by their standards) to spend eight hours a day, five days a week, tying the exact same fly over and over and over again. Remember, unless you’re willing to spend this kind of time doing the same thing you’re flies will never be as perfectly uniform as theirs.
  3. And remember that as a tyer of flies you will always be more critical of the flies you see – This isn’t to say people who don’t tie don’t know what a well tied fly looks like, but as a fly tyer, you’re more likely to notice the finer details, good and bad. To most people, as long as the fly does what it’s supposed to do and doesn’t fall apart after the first three or four fish (sharks, muskie and other big toothy fish not included) they’re going to be pretty happy with it.

Hopefully these tips will help put you at ease if you’re anything like me.

Blast and Cast Stats

Ducks shot: 0

Fish caught: 0

Stumps shot: 1

Number of times stump was shot: A whole bunch

Beers drank: 8-10 pints

“Nips” taken from the bourbon bottle: Way too many

Cheap cigars smoked: 5

Brain cells killed: A whole bunch

Hours friend spent hungover: 1/2

Hours I spent hungover: Don’t know yet, still waiting for pain to end

Hours that I will spend drinking and smoking cheap cigars in the foreseeable future: 0

Me Vs. The ‘Poon

While tying up a tarpon fly earlier today for my up coming Keys trip in April a thought occurred to me: what the hell am I going to do if I actually hook a tarpon?

See, I’m heading down there by myself, I can’t afford a guide and the boat I’m taking with me is a kayak.

Now I know that I shouldn’t be too worried about the prospect with tangling with the silver king because, well, like I said above, I can’t afford a guide, so the possibility of me even seeing a tarpon much less getting one to eat is going to be pretty slim.

I am bringing my big stick with me though. And it’s going to be rigged up and ready to go if I do get a chance to cast to a tarpon. And if I get a chance I’m sure as shit going for it. I’d be crazy not to.

But what if I actually stick a fish? I mean, not just a fish but one of the big migratory ‘poons, and not just jump it but really drive the hook home and have to fight the big bastard for hours as he drags me and my kayak for miles around the backcountry, occasionally slinging his seven-foot armor-plated body up in the air as he tries to escape, finally giving out near a clump of mangroves that look exactly like every other clump of mangroves leaving me lost and sore but ultimately victorious?

You know what? I think I’d be fine with that problem.

The Buff

I always thought of myself as a “blue-collar” fly fisherman; I didn’t need the fancy equipment, the shiny new gadgets or the technical clothing to catch fish. No, I could make due with what I had. I always picked function over flash, practicality over style, Budweiser in the can over micro-brews. I came from a working class family, dammit, and I may be slinging a “yuppie stick” (as my working class family calls a fly rod) but I’m sure as hell not going to fall into the trapping of the fashionable fly fisherman. Oh no, I, I am the goddamned salt of the earth when it comes to fly fishing…

Or that’s at least how it used to be.

I’ve noticed lately, after many Christmases, birthdays and tax returns that my equipment has started to get fancier, my gadgets more numerous and my clothes more and more technical.

This has, to be honest, brought a little secret shame to me as far as my redneck roots are concerned. I’ve actually found myself dressing down when fishing with certain people and laughing at the style choices of others while secretly admiring their brand new fishing shirts and zip-off quick drying shorts/pants (shants?). But shame or not, it seems that I have morphed into a fashionable fly fisherman. My one saving grace was a lack of a Buff.

You know the Buff; the seamless, one piece, tube of UV radiation resistant material that every fly fisherman in every fly fishing video that’s filmed in saltwater seems to be wearing over their faces as sun protection. To me, the Buff was always that one completely unnecessary piece of technical fishing clothing that was all about the fashion statement. I mean seriously, just wear a wide brim hat, use sunscreen and grow a beard if you’re that worried about skin cancer.

So along came this Christmas and with my wife’s purchase of two shirts for me from Strip’n Flywear (if you don’t know them click the link and check them out, they make some of the most badassed shirts I’ve ever seen) came a free Buff.  

Yep, a Buff.

And I know I’ll end up wearing it. First it’ll be tentatively and in private like it’s some sort of sick sexual fetish but then the next thing I’ll know I’ll be wearing right out in public were anyone can see while I’m steadily trying to convince myself that’s it perfectly reasonable piece of equipment that I couldn’t live without.

Dear God what have I become?